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Bismarck Root System and Septic Drainfield


Abetampa

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Bismarck Palm Septic tank / drain field question

Hello! I’m not sure if this is the correct place to post this. I just got my septic tank cleaned and I was unaware of where the drain field is located (I was told differently by previous home owner) 

This septic cleaning guy told me he believes it is in the front of the house. 

My question is : is this Bismarck Palm dangerous for the drain field? He told me he thinks it’s fine, but I’m worried.

Any thoughts? Pics provided 

The left circle is the tank, right circle is the distribution box then he said he thinks the drain field is there to the right and the Bismarck is on the right side

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@Abetampa palm roots are a bit different than oak roots, but both can wreak havoc with a septic system.  Oak roots grow outwards from the tree and then expand in diameter, which is why they sometimes crack pipes and...er...uproot things.  :D  Palm roots grow out from the base of the tree at a relatively small diameter (about 1/8" or so) and don't expand in diameter later.  So if they get into a pipe like a septic system, they will not expand out and crack the pipe in half.  However, they will definitely invade any nearby nutrient-rich source of water, like a septic drain field.  The mature root zone is *approximately* the mature crown diameter of the palm.  For a Bismarck that's around 20-25 feet in diameter. 

In your photo there are probably two easements, and the septic drainfield cannot be located in either spot, by law.  If you have to replace your drainfield, it may need to be 3x bigger than the current one.  This is due to law changes that made fields ridiculously massive.  I only know about this because I had to put in a new drainfield 2 years ago, and the field was so big (650sqft or 18x37 feet) that it takes up half of my front yard.  We had to be careful about the road easement (owned by the HOA) and the utility easement.  Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that you do NOT want to replace that drainfield if you can avoid it.  It'll be a $10,000 bill and take up your entire front yard.  As much as I love Bismarcks, I wouldn't plant it near your existing drainfield.  Given how much of a PITA it was to replace my drainfield, I'd cut down that oak asap too.  But that's just me.  :D

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Hey @Merlyn, thanks for replying! Got it. Yeah I’m thinking to remove the Bismarck. I’m not sure where to replant it, I may try to give it away or something.

i appreciate the info. I wish i knew exactly where my drain field is. I was only told that he thinks it’s in the front of the house. 

Also, there’s another oak tree on the right side. Let me grab a pic now. 
would you remove both? It’s a bit frustrating that they are there so close to the drain field. 


what about the Christmas palm I have on the left side? Would you move that too? 

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Also, any recommendation on the best way to remove the Bismarck? It hasn’t been in the ground for too long. Maybe a year @Merlyn

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Not sure if you can find the field edges and place root barrier to save the trees and expense, but that could be an option too if you can locate exactly where to do so. I have one of those giant drain fields also, and there is a laurel oak (still young) nearby that i need to keep, but the distance is such that i could cut roots or place the barrier to stop them. A little close but not impossible if done right. Those trees are old enough it could kill them too, but i would recomend an arborist to determine that for sure.  The bismark may not take kindly to removal, but extracting it with as many roots undisturbed as possible will help. If its small enough washing away the soil to reveal the roots can give you a rootball idea on width but depth is hard to do. I dug up sabal seedlings this way and they slid out of the sand/water mixture i had well.  Not sure on that size of a bismark but gentle and careful wont hurt.

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Hey @flplantguy! Thanks for the insight. I for sure don’t want to remove the live oaks. I texted the previous home owner and she told me the drain field is actually on the side of the house. So, I think I’ll be ok with the Bismarck where it’s at. And hopefully the oaks won’t cause problems hahah.

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@Abetampa the Christmas palm / Adonidia are fairly small mature palms.  I'd guess the roots may go out 6-10 feet from the trunk.  If you could figure out where the drainage field is, my guess is they'd be no problem.  If the drainage field is the old tube & gravel style, then it's easy to find with a big steel rod.  The septic guys use a big T-shaped piece to probe around for pipes and tanks and drainfields.  The newer drainfields are plastic half-pipes like the below picture, and you definitely don't want to poke a bunch of holes in those pipes.

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If you have a distribution box, I would guess that your field is 20+ years old, and probably made of PVC pipe buried in a field of gravel.  If that's the case I'd get something like this https://www.amazon.com/Sfcddtlg-Inch-Metal-Ground-Probe/dp/B0CC2GY7HL/

Poke around and find the field, and then you can easily plant away from it.

As far as the Bismarck goes, they are very unhappy with being transplanted.  If it had been in the ground a few months, it probably had not grown roots out into the surrounding soil.  At that point it would be easy with a good chance of success.  After a year (or more) it might just die if you transplant it.  Fortunately they are relatively cheap these days, and easy to find good silver ones.  That's not to say it *won't* survive if you moved it over here:

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The crown on those is pretty big, about 15' plus a bit.  In the above sketch there *might* be enough space to not have to aggressively prune fronds off the driveway.  And it *might* be far enough away from your drainfield to not be a future problem.  You'd just have to tape measure it out and see where you can put it, after you figure out where the drainfield is.  I'd guess your drainfield is probably somewhere in that orange rectangle.  If you decide to transplant it, try and take a 3-4 foot diameter rootball and move it all at once.  You could dig it out and put it on an old tarp, then drag it across the yard to a new spot.  A big rootball is HEAVY, like 200lb or so, and keeping it intact is critical to moving a Bismarck.

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4 minutes ago, Abetampa said:

Hey @flplantguy! Thanks for the insight. I for sure don’t want to remove the live oaks. I texted the previous home owner and she told me the drain field is actually on the side of the house. So, I think I’ll be ok with the Bismarck where it’s at. And hopefully the oaks won’t cause problems hahah.

I'd see if you can figure out exactly where the drainfield is.  If it's over on the far side of the house towards the utility easement, then the Bismarck is less of a concern than the big oak.

For a size reference, this was my new field...

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Hey @Merlyn! Thanks again for the replies. Very helpful. I have some texts from the previous owner and she is saying that the old drainfield was in the front of the house, then they got a new one on the side. I’ll send a pic of the side of the house she is referring to. 
I’ll try about the probe too, hopefully it’ll help finding it. 
for sure is stressful not knowing exactly where it is :( 

I’ve attached a picture of when the septic guy was cleaning it. In this photo, the top area that was dug was the tank he cleaned, below is the distribution box and in there is a pump, it seems the pump is facing and pushing stuff to the top right area (near side of house) 

I’ve attached a bunch of pics haha.

 

 

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Basically what I’m thinking is it would look like this, where the pump moves the stuff to where I drew the arrow. No idea tho lol 😂

(the arrow points to the side of the house) 

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@Abetampa ah that's great news!  I think you are right with your sketches.  It is probably a 3 or 4 inch pipe that elbows around the side of the house, and nowhere near the oaks or Bismarck.  In that case the only concern with the Bismarck placement is proximity to the road.  It's probably in the road easement, which just means the city or power company can "prune" it (aka mangle it) at any point in the future.  You might need to chop off a few fronds early to give clearance for the road, or so you can see easily when backing out.  Adding a mulched ring around it is a good idea too, like around the other oak.

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@Merlynlol now I’m texting the septic guy and he said “you don’t have a distribution box, It’s pumping straight to drainfield”

so I had it all wrong FML 

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1 minute ago, Merlyn said:

@Abetampa ah that's great news!  I think you are right with your sketches.  It is probably a 3 or 4 inch pipe that elbows around the side of the house, and nowhere near the oaks or Bismarck.  In that case the only concern with the Bismarck placement is proximity to the road.  It's probably in the road easement, which just means the city or power company can "prune" it (aka mangle it) at any point in the future.  You might need to chop off a few fronds early to give clearance for the road, or so you can see easily when backing out.  Adding a mulched ring around it is a good idea too, like around the other oak.

PERFECT. thank you thank you! 
 

so, this pic with the septic guy in it and the two dug out holes is just the septic tank in its completeness? I should have asked more questions when he was here.

is this pic just showing two entrance points to the 1 septic tank? Then it must be sending straight to the field which is on the side of house 

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@Abetampa I'd bet the original drainfield was in the front yard, probably in that big open area between the oaks and the walkway.  It might not have needed a lift pump in the original design, so that spot with the lift pump would have been a distribution box for the old lines.  New rules (and changes in the water table) means the drainfield needs to be higher.  The guy who did my new system said he has to install a LOT of lift pumps, because the drainfield has to be xxx feet above the water table.  If the outlet of the septic tank is too low, you don't get enough slope in the pipe to gravity feed out to the drainfield.  Or if you are going a long distance, like in your case, you need the pump.  Anyway, this is just my guess as to what happened:

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Im glad you have some good news!  And great guidance from merlyn too.

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3 hours ago, Merlyn said:

@Abetampa I'd bet the original drainfield was in the front yard, probably in that big open area between the oaks and the walkway.  It might not have needed a lift pump in the original design, so that spot with the lift pump would have been a distribution box for the old lines.  New rules (and changes in the water table) means the drainfield needs to be higher.  The guy who did my new system said he has to install a LOT of lift pumps, because the drainfield has to be xxx feet above the water table.  If the outlet of the septic tank is too low, you don't get enough slope in the pipe to gravity feed out to the drainfield.  Or if you are going a long distance, like in your case, you need the pump.  Anyway, this is just my guess as to what happened:

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@Merlynthis must be exactly the case. Wow, thank you so much for all of your help today. You’re great. 
I love palms and am growing my collection, so I creep on this forum a ton haha.

 

do you think my plants (the Hawaiian Ti) and palms and stuff are ok where they are, relative to the septic tank?

 

thank you again!! 

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@Abetampa I would only worry about stuff near the drainfield and just avoid planting things where they'd block access to the tank pumpout lid or the lift pump.  You just don't want to be digging up a bunch of stuff when it needs repairs or a pumpout.

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